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Brutalization of Men in Afghanistan
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Men's Health America Special Report
THE SELECTIVE BRUTALIZATION OF MEN IN AFGHANISTAN
In 1978, civil war broke out in Afghanistan, beginning a long series
of human rights abuses that continue to this day. It is clear that men
and boys have been the victim of many of these civil rights violations.
While Afghan women have had their rights to education and employment
curtailed and in a number of cases have been killed, it is civilian men
who have been selectively targeted for widespread detention, torture,
These civil rights abuses have been extensively documented in reports
published in the mass media, as well as in advisories compiled by human
rights organizations such as Amnesty International (http://
web.amnesty.org/ai.nsf/COUNTRIES/AFGHANISTAN? OpenView&expandall). This
is just a sampling of these human rights violations:
In 1992, Amnesty International issued a report detailing many
examples of men who had been arrested, tortured, and/or executed for
apparently political motives ("Afghanistan: Reports of Torture, Ill-
Treatment and Extrajudicial Execution of Prisoners," May 1992).
In 1996 Amnesty International (AI) reported, "Hundreds of men,
possibly over one thousand, have been taken prisoner and continue to be
held in arbitrary and unacknowledged detention, while dozens of men
have been beaten in the streets to make them attend Friday prayers in
the mosque ("Grave Abuses in the Name of Religion," November 12, 1996).
In 1997, AI reported, "the Taleban has rounded-up as many as 2,000
men from the Tajik and Hazara minorities from their homes in Kabul over
the past few days...There have been no reports that these men were
involved in fighting...These men are living in appalling conditions.
They have limited access to food, and there have been reports of
beating and ill-treatment in custody" ("Amnesty International Receives
New Information about Taleban Detentions," July 25, 1997).
On August 8, 1998, the Taleban took over Mazar-e Sharif. After taking
control of the city, thousands of ethnic Hazara civilians, mostly
males, were killed. According to the Amnesty International report, the
Taleban "entered Hazara houses one by one, killing older men and
children and taking away young men without explanation" (AI, "Thousands
of Civilians Killed Following Taleban Takeover of Maxar-e Sharif,"
September 3, 1998).
In August 1999, the Taleban forcibly recruited hundreds of young men
and children from destitute families in Kabul to cut vine trees and
seal irrigation ditches. In Bamiyan, "Estimates vary widely, but
hundreds of men, and some young women and children, who were separated
from their families and taken away, remain unaccounted for at the end
of 1999" (AI International Report 2000).
On January 7, 2001, 300 unarmed men in Yakaolang were massacred by
the Taleban. According to eyewitness accounts, Taleban forces began to
arrest and execute Hazara persons after recapturing the Yakaolang
district from Hezb-e Wahdat armed forces (AI, "Massacre in Yakaolang,"
March 28, 2001).
In October 2001, the British publication The Guardian reported that
the Taleban had ordered every family in Afghanistan to give up one male
to bolster the Taleban Army for an impending American attack. Tens of
thousands of men had been forcibly conscripted in just two weeks. One
woman lamented, "The Taliban have taken most of the males in my
village." ("Taliban Forcing Thousands into Army," October 4, 2001,
Various reports issued over the past decade have documented repeated
and flagrant human rights abuses against men. These abuses began long
before the Taleban came to power. Unless strong international pressure
is applied, it is likely these violations will continue in post-Taleban
Sadly, Afghan women have been deprived of their right to education,
employment, and freedom of movement. At the same time, many thousands
of Afghan men have been selectively targeted in a series of involuntary
inscriptions, forced detentions, torture, and executions. As a result,
many thousands of innocent men have lost the most precious right of
all: the right to life.
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